“Charitable” Foundations: ATMs for the Left

One of the unlamented developments of this election year is the Democratic Party’s retreat to the Left. Although the media claim the party’s voters have learned their lesson by settling for the “electable” John F. Kerry, a cursory examination of the Democrats shows they remain animated by anti-Bush furor. The party rank-and-file may have decided they prefer the sing-song cadences of John Kerry or the charming drawl of John Edwards to the red-faced shrieks of Howard Dean, but the message spread by the party faithful will remain the same: George W. Bush is a “liar,” a “betrayer,” a “war criminal,” and a “Nazi.”

What explains the Left’s pathological animosity toward a president who has shielded the American homeland from jihad for more than two years and liberated two nations from the hands of hostile fanatics? In part, it is due to the rising importance of activist groups like MoveOn.org and take-to-the-streets peaceniks like United for Peace and Justice. These organizations, in turn, are financed by the seemingly endless reserves of the nation’s non-profit “charitable” foundations, which long ago abandoned their commitment to philanthropy in favor of political activism. Their wide-ranging beneficiaries – environmentalists, ‘60s radicals, union organizers, Islamists, and abortion advocates – repeatedly converge in dizzying combinations. Inevitably, the large tax-exempt foundations fund the same radical personalities and groups. Their staff is invariably composed of the same far-Left activists (and a curiously high number of Clinton administration appointees). Ultimately, these inter-related organizations form one well-heeled, left-wing Brain Trust with literally billions of dollars at their disposal. These foundations are positioned to permanently shift our nation’s political dialogue to the Left through their grant-making power.

George Soros and the Open Society Institute

Perhaps the most openly political of these philanthropic poseurs is currency speculator George Soros, whose Open Society Institute’s (OSI) assets totaled more than $175 million in 2001. Soros has said defeating George W. Bush “is the focus of my life” and has compared the sitting president to the Nazi occupiers of his native Hungary. To bring about “regime change” in Washington, Soros has pledged $10 million of his own money to the newly formed Democratic voter turnout group Americans Coming Together (ACT) and vowed to raise a total of $95 million.

ACT is the most prominent of a new generation of leftist groups: the 527s. These organizations are so-named because of their IRS status, which allows them wider latitude to receive and spend “soft” money than traditional political parties. ACT formally seeks to boost minority voter turnout in17 battleground states vital to the Democratic Party. A look at the Executive Committee of ACT reveals a leftist organization composed of the usual suspects:

  • ACT president Ellen Malcolm is founder of the fringe abortion advocacy group EMILY’s List;
  • CEO Steve Rosenthal was political director of the AFL-CIO from 1996-2002;
  • Minyon Moore is a former assistant and Director of White House Political Affairs for President Clinton;
  • Carl Pope is executive director of the Sierra Club;
  • Andy Stern is president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of two major unions to endorse Howard Dean before the Iowa caucuses; and
  • Cecile Richards is a former deputy chief to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA. Cecile is the daughter of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, who lost her governorship to George W. Bush. The younger Richards is also president of “America Votes,” another Democratic 527 that has already collected $250 million.

Although not one board member, former SEIU political director Gina Glantz is considered a prime mover within ACT. The clear purpose of ACT is to run “issue advocacy” ads smearing President Bush in the hopes of electing a Democrat.

Political strategist Dick Morris has stated the 527s have another purpose as well: they act as a party-in-exile for the Clintons. In a FrontPage Magazine column, Morris suggested the Clintons were funneling money into these start-ups, which could provide campaign support to favored candidates (e.g., Hillary in 2008), in the event they lose the formal party machinery. (Current DNC Chairman Terry MacAuliffe was handpicked by Bill Clinton and has demonstrated impeccable loyalty.) This may explain the large numbers of Clinton functionaries active in 527s. Minyon Moore is on the Executive Committee of ACT. Moore is Clinton’s former political director and assistant, as well an ex-DNC officer. ACT President Ellen Malcolm joined with Clinton aide Harold Ickes to form the Media Fund, another 527 organization that seeks to purchase “issue advocacy” ads attacking President Bush near election-time.

The organization most clearly tied to the Clintons, however, is the Center for American Progress, headed by former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta. CAP is a think tank meant to rival the Heritage Foundation. Like Heritage, CAP intends to lay the ideological basis for legislation, as well as provide a philosophical opposition to Bush administration proposals. George Soros has set aside $3 million for the Center.

Soros’ deep pockets also financed the feminist movement, dispersing money to the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. Soros’ kind support also established the Million Mom March, getting the anti-gun rally off the ground in 2000.

These organizations are intended to serve partisan functions: to elect or intellectually bolster Democrats, and although these groups are to the Left, they fall within the mainstream of the political discussion. However, much of Soros’ money goes to organizations on the wrong side of the War on Terror. Soros has given multiple millions of dollars to the ACLU over the years. Likewise, the Ford Foundation gave the ACLU endowment fund $7 million in 1999, and $335,000 last year alone. The ACLU’s leftist orientation has been well known since 1988, when Michael Dukakis lost the election in part because of its stance on capital punishment and the Pledge of Allegiance. But the ACLU has more important flags to burn; in recent years, the ACLU has lied about the effects of the Patriot Act, rallied to defend Maher “Mike” Hawash (who has since pleaded guilty to providing support for the Taliban), protested the Justice Department’s arrest of illegal immigrants from Iraq on the eve of war, falsely accused John Ashcroft of abusing his authority (without evidence, naturally) and protested for the inhumane treatment of terrorist fundraiser and professor Sami al-Arian (on the grounds that he had an inalienable right to change his underwear more than once a week).

Despite its deep hostility to the War on Terrorism, many classify the ACLU as a mainstream “liberal” organization. Be that as it may; George Soros’ funding is hardly reserved to the mainstream. OSI also funded the fantasies of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Research Institute. This is the same group that falsely accused the Justice Department of inhumane treatment of a Muslim prisoner, claiming federal agents forcibly extracted several of his teeth, brutalized him, and forced him to eat pork – all later proven to be lies. ADC Communications Director Hussein Ibish has defended Palestinian suicide bombers (as long as they don’t target “civilians”; how big of you, Hussein!), praised Hamas for “running hospitals and schools and orphanages,” defended Sami al-Arian, and praised Mao Tse-tung.

The Open Society Institute also supports radical black Muslims, who idolize gangsters waging a bloody war against the nation’s police. In 2001, OSI gave $65,000 to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. This group is a fitting counterpart to Aryan Nations, which seeks an “All White Pacific Northwest”; the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement campaigns to “free the land!” – specifically, the Southeastern United States, from South Carolina to Louisiana, on which they would establish an all-black homeland. Moreover, this new racist entity would be communist, as the Movement seeks to “[t]o place the major means of production and trade in the trust of the state.” In this, they have gotten tips from the experts; Speakers Bureau member Ina Solomon “represented the organization internationally during her five-month residency in Cuba.”

Most disturbing, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s website lionizes a group of “political prisoners,” all of whom were convicted of killing policemen. Sundiata Acoli, Robert Seth Hayes, Jalil Muntaquin, Herman Bell, and Russell Maroon Shoats were all radical black revolutionaries, serving with the Black Panthers and/or Black Liberation Army. The website repeatedly excuses their crimes. For instance, the website writes of Shoats: “In 1970, along with 5 others, Maroon was accused of attacking a police station, which resulted in an officer being killed. This attack was said to have been carried out in response to the rampant police brutality in the Black community.” Of Teddy “Jah” Heath, a “political prisoner who died for the cause” (in prison, of natural causes), the website records: “Teddy ‘Jah’ Heath, along with former [Black] Panther 21 defendant Baba Odinga, was arrested and charged with the politically motivated kidnapping of an organized crime figure from Westchester County. The kidnapping ended peacefully and without injury to anyone.” How reassuring.

Elsewhere, the Movement website deems the Left’s favorite whitey-murderer, Mumia Abu-Jamal, a “political prisoner.” This is not the only pro-Mumia group Soros has funded. His foundations gave generously to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (NAACP-LDEF), which has filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal. LDEF leaders frequently speak at “Free Mumia” rallies. The Ford Foundation gave the NAACP-LDEF half-a-million dollars in 2002.

Not content to merely advocate for the release of violent offenders, Soros’ foundations have also helped expand the right to vote…to felons. LDEF encouraged Florida’s convicted felons to vote in 2000, although that violates state law. As Thomas Ryan noted on yesterday’s FrontPage Magazine, the OSI is also a major contributor to The Sentencing Project, a group that advocates voting rights for felons; much of this support came after a study Soros funded revealed Democrats would receive 70 percent of the felon vote. The Ford and MacArthur Foundations have also funded The Sentencing Project.

In keeping with his tendency to fund racist groups that want to ethnically cleanse portions of the United States, Soros has also funded the racist National Council of La Raza and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). Both groups seek to open America’s borders and have visions of “reclaiming” Aztlan (the American Southwest, “stolen” from Mexico by the Yanquis). MALDEF is in essence a Ford Foundation creation, with Ford radicalizing the once-noble organization with a $2.2 million grant in 1968.

Money from Soros’ foundations also goes to the “peace” movement. In 1999, OSI gave $100,000 to the comically misnamed People for the American Way (PAW), an organization dedicated to removing religion from public life. (The Ford Foundation also gave PAW $150,000 from 2000-1.) PAW helped create a communist-led “peace” movement to oppose the Bush administration. International ANSWER had sponsored the major “peace” rallies, but when its radical nature became known, it was PAW that looked for a more “acceptable” organization to sponsor these enormous demonstrations. PAW created United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and chose as its “mainstream” leader Leslie Cagan, who was a member of the Communist Party after the fall of the Berlin Wall. She describes Castro’s Cuba as the ideal state.

Cagan’s fellow communists at the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) also enjoy George Soros’ largesse. Founded as a Communist Party defense agency, the NLG’s history is replete with pro-Communist agitation. In 1977, Guild President William Goodman warned his Maoist members, “We will not be able to organize people into the Guild, and in fact we will lose much of our membership, if we promote slogans of opposing the Soviet Union and opposing the Communist Party.” The keynote speaker at NLG’s 2003 national convention, Lynne Stewart, praised Ho Chi Minh, Mao Tse-tung, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara. Soros gave the NLG $50,000 in 2000.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is another legal organization with close ties to communist politics and terrorism. The CCR has opposed our every effort to defend ourselves in the War on Terror, moaning that America would not admit any immigrant with a “position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.” Soros has given the CCR more than $120,000 over the last six years. In this, he trails the Ford Foundation, which gave CCR more than $150,000 last year alone.

The now-defunct Soros Documentary Fund gave Medea Benjamin money to produce “Indonesia: Islands on Fire.” Benjamin is best known as head of Global Exchange, an organization that takes credulous leftists on propaganda tours highlighting the “successes” of socialist nations and the “horrors” of American foreign policy. Benjamin played a leading role in the violent 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, and in the 2001 G-8 protests in Genoa, Italy, which also ended in violence. Most recently, she teamed up with Leslie Cagan to form International Occupation Watch, whose professed goal was to get U.S. GIs stationed in Iraq to declare themselves conscientious objectors and get them sent home. This, wrote Benjamin in Nation magazine last April, would cause the war effort to collapse and force us to beat a hasty retreat from other terrorist hot spots. In the same piece, Benjamin endorsed “preemptively” sending human shields to hot spots like North Korea and Iran. Like Cagan, Benjamin has described Marxist Cuba as “heaven” and has found her way onto the foundations’s gravy train.

These are but a few of the radical organizations Soros has funded. In fact, it is impossible to know exactly how many other radicals are receiving Soros’ money. Soros gave more than $13 million to the Tides Foundation and/or Tides Center between 1997 and 2003. (In this, he is in good company; Sen. John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, has contributed more than $4 million to Tides over the years.) The Tides Foundation acts as a middle-man between wealthy leftists and far-Left advocacy groups, with which the wealthy leftists do not wish to be associated. Among Tides beneficiaries are the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), UFPJ, the Institute for Global Communications, and a wide assortment of groups on the extreme margins of the political debate.

Vile Leftists: The Personal Touch

These extremist organizations form a coalition most would find unsavory, but shady personal alliances are nothing new to Soros. His right-hand man is the former director of the ACLU’s Washington, D.C., office: Morton Halperin. As Rep. Phil Crane, R-IL, noted in the Congressional Record, “Halperin has called for dissolving the CIA covert career service, tagged the CIA as ‘the subverter of everybody else’s freedom’ and declared it ‘an open question’ whether the CIA and other U.S. intelligence services would turn to assassinating American citizens.” Halperin, a lifelong leftist agitator, testified for Daniel Ellsberg and served as a character witness for Philip Agee. Agee famously printed the names of more than 700 of his CIA colleagues before fleeing to the workers paradise of Cuba. For his close association with a known traitor, Bill Clinton appointed Halperin assistant to Defense Secretary Les Aspin in 1993. Another longtime Soros associate, Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance, has been described as “a functioning pot-head.” Like Soros, he is a staunch advocate of drug legalization, and like Soros, he has also earmarked a cool $10 million in personal funds to defeat President Bush in November. Quota Queen Lani Guinier, Clinton’s nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, sits on OSI’s Board of Trustees. So does ubiquitous PBS presence Bill Moyers.

Bill Moyers and the Schumann Foundation

Bill Moyers has learned well from his comrade Soros. In addition to sitting on the board of Soros’ Open Society Institute, Moyers is president of the Florence and John Schumann Foundation, from which position he funds both the respectable and the radical Left.

Just as Soros’ millions created Americans Coming Together from nothing, Moyers steered Schumann Foundation money into an obscure journal known as The American Prospect. Once a tiny bimonthly academic journal, Moyers turned loose the foundation’s spigots and flooded TAP with pledges of nearly $11 million. It was a $5.5 million grant in 1999 that transformed TAP from an academic journal to a biweekly newsstand publication meant to rival National Review. The Ford Foundation similarly gave TAP a $600,000 grant. Although Schumann money conferred respectability upon this publication, TAP maintains connections to the radical Left. The Prospect’s Editor-at-Large, Harold Meyerson, is a Vice-Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America; DSA chairs include Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Gloria Steinem and Delores Huerta. TAP founders include Robert Kuttner and diminutive Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

Similar support has gone to leftist website TomPaine.com.

The Schumann Foundation gave $332,000 to Ralph Nader groups Public Citizen Foundation and U.S. PIRG from 1995-2000. The Ford Foundation gave $450,000 to Public Citizen in 2000; the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation gave the Naderites $100,000.

Schumann also gave $52,000 to Citizen Action, an organization later mired in controversy over supporting Ron Carey in the 1996 Teamsters presidential election. (Edward Kelly, former head of the Massachusetts chapter, recalled Citizen Action’s metamorphosis from grassroots organization to partisan pressure group: “Before the Teamsters scandal, there were problems. Basically, I saw national go from a non-partisan, grassroots organization to a partisan one tied to the Democratic Party.” The scandal did not deter the Ford Foundation, which gave Citizen Action $150,000 in 1997.

Schumann money funded the Institute for Public Accuracy, headed by leftist Norman Solomon. The IPA coordinated Sean Penn’s first trip to Baghdad, before the war; Medea Benjamin oversaw Penn’s return trip late last year.

The Florence Fund (part of the Schumann Foundation, headed by Bill Moyers’ son, John) contributed to a full-page New York Times ad to publicize the “Win Without War” coalition. Coincidentally, Moyers later interviewed two “Win Without War” officials on his PBS program, “NOW with Bill Moyers.” At no time did Moyers disclose his financial ties to his guests.

The MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is another name immediately familiar to loyal PBS viewers. The Chicago-based “charity,” with $4 billion in assets, has underwritten all forms of public broadcasting, but much of their $170 million in annual grants goes to less benign recipients than Big Bird. PBS is not the only not-for-profit television MacArthur funds; it is also listed as a contributor to radical leftist propaganda outlet Link TV. The MacArthur, Surdna, and Rockefeller Brothers Foundations were among the many non-profits Link TV acknowledged on the air during last weekend’s pledge drive.

The MacArthur Foundation is also among the numerous “philanthropic” organizations to fund leftist agitator Medea Benjamin. MacArthur gave Global Exchange more than $400,000 in 1999-2000 alone. Benjamin also received the MacArthur Foundation’s Writer’s Fellowship.

Benjamin is a fierce partisan of Marxist Cuba. Other MacArthur grants have explicitly supported Castro’s gulag archipelago. MacArthur gave a $347,000 grant to the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, “a portion [of which] supports the Council’s Cuba Program,” which, in the grant’s words, “seeks to broaden the national debate on normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba.” MacArthur also gave $30,000 to the Cuban Committee for Democracy, which wants to counteract “conservative Cuban-Americans [supporting] an agenda that favors the isolation and punishment of the Cuban people because of their government.”

The Institute for Policy Studies similarly has a history of colluding with Communist governments. Phyllis Bennis of IPS is on the board of International Occupation Watch, along with Medea Benjamin and Leslie Cagan. She was also an outspoken opponent of the liberation of Iraq. MacArthur gave IPS $233,000 in 2001 alone.

On the serious policy front, MacArthur has awarded tax-exempt funds to undermine the president’s defense and foreign policy agenda. MacArthur awarded the Aspen Institute $841,000 to study “global interdependence.” The Aspen Institute’s Global Interdependence Initiative website says it works “to better inform, and to more effectively motivate, American support for forms of U.S. international engagement that are appropriate to an interdependent world.” Translation: We oppose the president’s “unilateral” (that is, effective) foreign policy. This grant generated a more “scholarly” opposition to President Bush.

Since 9/11 exposed how vulnerable the nation is to terrorist attack, Bush has renewed the nation’s interest in a missile defense system. MacArthur has funded the opposition, giving more than $300,000 to the left-leaning Center for Defense Information, a longtime opponent of missile defense.

The Tip of the Iceberg

These grants, sadly, only touch upon the deep, sustained pattern of leftist political activism funded by these enormous, tax-exempt foundations. And these three foundations – OSI, Schumann, and MacArthur – are only a minute representation of the enormous grant-making power the Left has accrued by capturing the leadership of the nation’s largest foundations. FrontPage Magazine has documented the activities of the multi-billion dollar Ford Foundation in a series of articles; Ford has, indeed, created entire academic disciplines on our nation’s campuses. Carnegie and others follow Ford’s lead. Together, these grants have the ability to realign our national political discourse, subsidizing and mainstreaming the rhetoric of the far-Left. Conservatives have no similar funding sources. Conservative philanthropists typically leave their money to churches, colleges, and community improvement projects; leftists leave all their funds to fellow activists. This fundamental difference may one day have a transformative effect upon this nation.

This author is particularly indebted to the invaluable work of Mike Bauer, who contributed much of the raw data about the Open Society Institute’s grant figures.

This article originally appeared as the lead article on Tuesday, March 2, 2004, on FrontPage Magazine.